keeping sangha connected
Meeting Bhante Connecting with our teacher and founder Sangharakshita
Also in this issue:
Seeking Beauty: A Gateway to Freedom by Narottama
Purification of a Stupa by Barry Timmerman
Mary Schaefer & David Watt
Preparing this issue of the Vajra Bell has been another step deeper into my Buddhist practice and ever-expanding view of the Triratna Buddhist Order and the global connections it offers. At the retreat this past fall for women in the ordination process, I and my fellow retreatants were inspired by a talk given by Sanghadevi. She shared her personal journey with Sangharakshita and encouraged us to build our own sense of connection to him. “Given the pioneering nature of Triratna,” she said, “I think it’s important that we all read Sangharakshita as widely as possible.” Read his memoirs. Listen to his talks, his voice, she said, not just for our own sake but for the sake of others. She described his writings as “doorways” through which we get to know him and what it means to be a Buddhist practicing the Dharma here in the modern world. I invited her to share her reflections on Bhante (I was delighted when she agreed!) along with other Order members Surakshita, Karunadevi and Vidyadevi. I stepped through the doorways they opened, which gave me the chance to get to know more deeply – and with ever-growing appreciation and gratitude – Bhante and this “pioneering” tradition he has founded. It has
been quite a journey. Going through those doorways, I also virtually “met” Manjuvajra, one of the Order members who lived at Aryaloka in its early days and one of Surakshita’s first teachers. Through a photo of Karunadevi he posted on Facebook, I learned that he had just assembled a book of photos and reflections of his travels with his spiritual teacher, Sangharakshita. He shared his photo of Sangharakshita in front of the Golden Gate Bridge during one of his few visits to America - and also by the Grand Canyon, that vast vista that I had personally just visited this fall. As I read these accounts of Bhante and corresponded with people, I was struck by how interdependent and connected we are with each other and the many teachers that guided and inspired Bhante on his journey. As Karunadevi writes, “Bhante has done something revolutionary in the Buddhist world, drawing on his vast knowledge of the Buddha’s teachings and making the spirit of those teachings accessible.” It’s my responsibility, I figure, as a mitra and a practicing Buddhist, in training to join the Triratna Buddhist Order, that I get to know as much as I can about it and the inspiring teacher who opened this path for me. I invite you to enter these doorways to learn more about Bhante, his vision for the world, and what he and Triratna offer you and thousands of others on this path to peace. ~ Mary Schaefer
This has been a wonderful winter at Aryaloka, at least for me. Despite being battered, inconvenienced and fatigued by the onslaught of February blizzards, I am lucky to have spent time at the center to appreciate its winter beauty. I have seen the full moon rise while snowshoeing around the grounds at night, napped on the couch during a blizzard, cross-county skied with Arjava and shoveled snow off the roofs of Aryaloka and Akashaloka. The most amazing winter sight was that of two Tibetan monks wearing thin robes in cold weather conducting pujas to dedicate the stupa to Dhardo Rinpoche. The
younger of the two monks, Dhardo Tulku Rinpoche, is the successor of one of Sangharakshita’s influential teachers. Even though the young monk has never met Sangharakshita, this ceremony was an extension of the long connection and friendship between Bhante and the previous Dhardo Rinpoche. It seems auspicious that the ceremony occurred just prior to this issue, where we consider the life and impact of Sangharakshita. The issue includes essays by four Order members – Sanghadevi, Karunadevi, Vidyadevi and Surakshita – whose lives he directly touched. Sangharakshita is a multifaceted leader. He is a prolific scholar and artist, publishing more than seventy books including biographies, polemics, collections of essays and extended lectures, continued on page 5
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VAJRA BELL KULA CO-EDITOR: Mary Schaefer email@example.com CO-EDITOR: David Watt firstname.lastname@example.org ADMINISTRATION EDITOR: Dh. Vihanasari email@example.com ARTS EDITOR: Lois Sans firstname.lastname@example.org CONTRIBUTORS: Dh. Satyada email@example.com Carolyn Gregsak firstname.lastname@example.org Peter Ingraham email@example.com DESIGN: Dh. Rijupatha firstname.lastname@example.org
Spiritual Vitality Council Amala (Chair) Vidhuma (Vice Chair) Arjava Dayalocana Karunasara Surakshita Board of Directors Arjava (Chair) Barry Timmerman (Secretary) Elizabeth Hellard (Treasurer) Dayalocana Akashavanda Amala Jean Corson Tom Gaillard
Aryaloka Buddhist Center 14 Heartwood Circle Newmarket, NH 03857 603-659-5456 email@example.com · www.aryaloka.org Find us on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/Araloka ...or on the Aryaloka Facebook Group: http://www.facebook.com/groups/aryalokasangha/ Connect at The Buddhist Centre Online: http://thebuddhistcentre.com/aryaloka
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from the spiritual vitality council The Spiritual Vitality Council (SVC) has the happy yet challenging responsibility to oversee the spiritual well-being of the Aryaloka community. The SVC is still grappling with how to go about its charge and define the tasks it must undertake. The SVC considers its responsibilities from three broad perspectives. First, we consider the range and quality of Dharma programs offered through Aryaloka - including the content, who teaches it and the quality of teaching. We examine the learning opportunities for newcomers, friends, mitras and Order members. Second, we consider ways that Aryaloka supports the spiritual development of its members. This
means understanding what supports are needed and are available to meet those needs. Third, we gauge the ongoing spiritual vitality of our community. We attempt to understand what constitutes a spiritually vital community and thoughtfully look at ourselves to see how we measure up. All three are important, and each poses its own challenges. Of these, the third perspective is the most slippery, because it breaks new ground, venturing into a dark area with only a dim light. It is a task of a special and experimental nature. The question is: how spiritually alive is our Aryaloka community? What comes to mind when you think of being spiritually vital, alive and well? From a Buddhist perspective we might ask ourselves, “how free are we as a community from hatred, craving and ignorance?” How’s that for a global view? The SVC con-
from the board of directors The Board of Directors meets on the third Wednesday of each month to discuss and decide issues related to the financial management, repairs and maintenance, administration, marketing and development of Aryaloka. The Board works closely with the Spiritual Vitality Council to provide vibrant spiritual programs and practices while maintaining the building infrastructure and grounds. Dh. Dayalocana gave an update from the Spiritual Vitality Council discussions: • •
The possibility of using produce from local organic farmers for Aryaloka retreats. Plans for a summer retreat for the newly formed Young Sangha – a group of local Buddhists in their 20s and 30s who meet on the fourth Sunday of each month. A summer visit by Dh. Nagabodhi,
Dh. Vidhuma siders how to translate that question into something more concrete and specific. Harmony was a prized value among the historical Buddha’s followers and remains so as embodied in the Triratna Buddhist Community’s emphasis on kalyana mitrata (spiritual friendship). How do we look at harmony in our community? Harmony is abstract, so we need to translate this into specific behaviors. Are we kind to each other? Do we communicate clearly, often and respectfully? Do we appreciate the needs and feelings of others? Do we listen thoughtfully to each other? Do we resolve conflict among ourselves effectively? Do we enjoy being in each other’s company? Do we meet often, and in what groupings? Are we thoughtful, mindful of others? Does this show in a way that is easily discernable? Is our friendcontinued on page 10
president of Aryaloka, during the retreat for men in the ordination process. Other UK Order members will visit this summer.
The Development Team proposed the following: •
The Finance Team reported on: •
The strong attendance at the multiweek classes including the Path of Practice and Introduction to Meditation groups. Eventbrite, our new online registration system, is working well. We’ll continue to monitor the success and user-friendliness of this system. Income is ahead of budget. While most expenses are in line with expectations, plowing, shoveling and fuel expenses are over budget due to the extreme winter. The Fundraising Kula is working on the Auction set for April 10th. Spring plans include the completion of Shantiloka, the solitary cabin; completion of the Stupa grounds maintenance and landscaping; and the creation of raised flower beds in the gardens.
Research the possibility of starting a “Sangha Care” program at Aryaloka. This would be a network of mutual support connecting Aryaloka sangha members who need temporary support due to illness, surgery or other critical issues with members who can help with such things as preparing meals, running errands or shopping for groceries. The Development Team will share their findings with the Spiritual Vitality Council.
Other topics discussed included: • • • •
Revising and rewriting the website. A Board of Directors retreat in May or June. Monthly activity and project reports from the Executive Director. Updated Order member information on our website.
The next Board of Directors meeting will be Wednesday, May 20 at 6:15 pm.
The Aryaloka Council and Board minutes are posted on the bulletin board at the foot of the stairs. SPRI NG 2 0 1 5
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sangha notes ARYALOKA SANGHA
Friends Night The Tuesday evening Friends’ Night Winter Series featured three programs of study and discussion. Tom Gaillard and Barry Timmerman led the beginner series on the Noble Eightfold Path. Arjava explored death and dying from the Buddhist perspective in a group called Making Friends with Death, and Satyada and his group dived into Buddhist ethics. Other special programs Meditation practice; reflections on death and dying In January, Lilasiddhi led a one-day introduction on the Mindfulness of Breathing practice, a core Triratna meditation form. Karunasara’s series, Living Joyfully, Dying Peacefully continues with discussions and contemplation of end-of-life issues for ourselves and others. Vidhuma offered a Mindfulness and Health workshop and presented a survey of the benefits of meditation on physical and emotional health. Ongoing events Open meditation, Arts and Children’s sangha Eric Ebbeson’s drawing group meets the first Sunday of each month and explores the connections between the right-brained states of meditation and drawing. All are welcome, and no artistic experience is necessary. On the second Sunday of each month, Alisha Roberts leads the Children’s Sangha, where our younger Dharma practitioners share stories and meditate together. Rijupatha’s new monthly series, the Young Person’s Sangha Hangout, offers a space for the under forty crowd. Bodhana’s Tuesday and Thursday morning open meditation sessions continue, as do the Friday evening practice gatherings. Dhardo Rinpoche’s visit Dhardo Rinpoche made his second visit to Aryaloka to dedicate the now completed stupa honoring his predecessor. He led ceremonial pujas and generously offered talks to Order members, mitras and our community at large. Look for more stories and photos of his visit in this issue. ~ Peter Ingraham
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The Dhamma Brothers movie was shown at a recent movie night, and was well attended, with lots of questions for the panel discussion after the screening. The Khante Outreach program provides weekly Dharma meetings for men in the Concord State Prison for Men on Thursdays (Dharma/mitra study) and Saturdays (open meditation). Satyada makes the monthly trip to Berlin, NH, to visit several mitras there. Two new volunteers completed training, and Susan DiPietro now regularly attends Saturday meditations. Neil Harvey will also join us soon on Saturdays. Thanks to both for volunteering! The Concord Men’s Sangha continues to grow. Two men, Mike and James, became mitras at a ceremony held at the February retreat. They started mitra study with Satyada on Thursday afternoons. Satyada is starting a dharma library for the men at the
SAN FRANCISCO SANGHA (SAN FRANCISCO, CA)
San Francisco has been having a warm, early spring, also known as a drought. If you need to escape the cold, it’s a great time to visit San Francisco. Please consider bringing water. While you’re here, you can join early risers for morning meditations on weekdays or various weekend day retreats, depending on when you come. You just missed a Hungry Ghost day retreat co-led by Danakamala, who was visiting from New Hampshire, and local Order member Danadasa. We studied the Anusaya Sutta. A series of weekend day retreats organized for young practitioners has been well attended. Weeknights offer various upcoming opportunities. An Art of Meditation class is wrapping up on Mondays and Life with Full Attention and Essential Dharma five-week courses will pick up when that ends. Wednesday Sangha Night continues on the theme of
Berlin facility, thanks to the generosity of a sangha member who did some “spring cleaning” of her Dharma books. Please consider donating used dharma books and magazines to Khante Outreach. You can extend the hand of spiritual friendship by serving as a pen pal to one of the incarcerated men. Here are some excerpts from letters the men wrote about their pen pals: “People who are incarcerated typically have very interesting stories to tell, but almost no one who cares to hear them.” “I would like to encourage you to lift the pen and lend a hand.” “Like any relationship, it is important if you are interested in writing an inmate to listen to what is asked and what is offered.” Be sure to read the letters on display at Aryaloka. Please contact Khemavassika (Khemavassika@gmail. com) for more information. ~ Dh. Khemavassika
communication. Pasadini, who was ordained in San Francisco, recently passed back through town and led Sangha Night on the topic of Radical Goodness: On Being Good Enough. A drop-in meditation course is offered on Thursdays and is open to everyone. First Friday Film Night entertainment is ongoing. This month we are also lucky to have an event called Spring Equinox Candlelight Yoga. Many of us look forward to April’s week-long meditation retreat with Paramananda and Paramabodhi. A Breathworks retreat is also coming to the Bay Area in June. The focus will be mindfulness for stress, pain and illness. This will be the first time a Breathworks retreat is offered in the United States, and registration is still open. The Center Management Team meets monthly to organize retreats and discuss ways to keep the center clean, welcoming and organized. Construction on Bartlett Street is ongoing but has not slowed us down. ~ Mary Salome
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sangha notes NAGALOKA SANGHA (PORTLAND, ME)
The Spring issue you say? Sitting here in mid-March, looking out the window on a 33-degree day with blowing winds and frozen snow banks, it is hard to believe we are writing the spring news. Nagaloka’s Friends’ Night sangha warmed the winter’s Wednesdays by coming together to study Not About Being Good, by Subhadramati. This book had a particularly warm reception with the group. Members felt it practical, simply
ROCKY MOUNTAIN SANGHA (MISSOULA, MT)
Happy spring! That is said with a slight cringe, as we fully understand the tough winter you’ve had on the east coast. May you see spring flowers popping their heads up soon, and may we not have a rough wildfire season here due to a lack of moisture. We hit the ground running in January with a focus on sangha. The sangha saw growth this past year and we are trying to keep the groups connected. Introduction to Meditation and Buddhism last fall brought a committed group together to do the foundation year on Tuesdays. We also have committed core groups on Wednesday Sangha Nights, Thursday mitra study and a women’s GFR group meeting every other Tuesday. How do we keep the groups
NEW YORK SANGHA (NEW YORK, NY)
In March a small group from the New York sangha attended the dedication of the new stupa at Aryaloka, with the current tulku of Dhardo Rinpoche and his attendant, Sersang. Also in March, thanks to the good work of our real estate kula (Savana Luraschi, Christopher Warnasch and Vajramati), we have a new space in Manhattan on Tuesday evenings for Sangha Night and mitra study. Based on a recent survey, Tuesday is the night SPRI NG 2 0 1 5
stated, yet pointing to very deep practice. We reflected on our practice, and tried the suggested practices with the group. Dhardo Rinpoche came up to Portland for a visit in March. Along with his attendant Sersang, he attended Friends’ Night at Nagaloka on March 11th and was met with a full house! He spoke about his connection with Triratna through Sangharakshita, the previous Dhardo Rinpoche and the building of the stupa at Aryaloka. He answered questions about his life, his studies, his thoughts on being aware of the news out in the world, as well as informing us about the monastery connected with all the busy lives we lead? Every second Sunday, we have a half-day meditation practice, and once a quarter we have an all-sangha day. All the groups suspend their meetings for this event so everyone can gather on one specific Wednesday Sangha Night. We started another Introduction to Meditation and Buddhism class this month that is now full, with fourteen students. It’s exciting to see moms coming to class together with their teenagers! We are having a retreat in May at Camp Child. Many of you may remember this place, as it was used for Going for Refuge retreats several years ago. It has become available recently, so we are glad to again have access to this place in the spring and fall. The retreat will be exploring the Anapanasati practice and will be led by Karunakara. Happily humming along in Big Sky Country! ~ Kay Jones most New York sangha members are able to participate, so we are looking forward to larger sangha gatherings beginning in April. We recently concluded a six-week series on strengthening our meditation practice, led by Padmadharini. She is heading off for six weeks to work for the White Tara Trust in Nepal. After a few weeks of dedicating the new space and gathering the sangha, the teaching kula will support Vajramati in launching a new program to be announced soon! ~ Bettye Pruitt
that he has taken charge of and the school that the previous Dhardo Rinpoche built and looked after. His visit was a highlight during our long winter. We begin a new Friends’ Night study in the spring with Who is the Buddha by Sangharakshita. We continue to have men’s and women’s practice days and introduction to meditation days. Thank you to Bodhipaksa, Khemavassika and Suddhayu for running events at Nagaloka. Your support is greatly appreciated! Check out our website to stay up-to-date at www.nagalokabuddhistcenter. org. ~ Gail Yahwak
editor’s notes Continued from Page 2
translations and poetry. He is a charismatic organizer who brought Buddhism with him from India and established what has become a transnational Buddhist movement. He is a mentor who has had lasting, loving, mentoring relationships with many who have shared his life as reflected upon by these Order members. As part of the stupa dedication, Dhardo Rinpoche performed a spell-binding Tibetan puja honoring our previous teachers in the shrine room. Later, during a question and answer session with mitras and Order members, the Rinpoche said that because of the relationship between his predecessor and Bhante, he felt a deep connection to the “Venerable Sangharakshita.” He believes there are many ways to practice Buddhism, and that Bhante established an important path of practice for Buddhism in the West. We celebrate that path in this issue. I am grateful, as always, for the enthusiasm of our contributors, kula members and correspondents. The Vajra Bell documents the large and small changes in our sangha life - through retreats, movie nights, the children’s sangha and in many other ways. Sunada and Dharmasuri’s piece on the Outlying Sangha Retreat reminds me how this place affects people, even those who rarely come here. It supports our practice, enriches and renews us. I dread mud season, but I love spring. I look forward to seeing you all on the Spring Work Weekend! ~ David Watt VAJ R A BE L L
A Taste of Nordic Nirvana with Arjava & Akashavanda By David Watt Nordic Nirvana is the whimsical name for the winter weekend retreat led by the whimsical Akashavanda and the more level-headed Arjava in February. Five other retreatants joined them to share an ideal winter weekend that included snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, hot chocolate, delicious meals and naps on the couches. The woods around Aryaloka have a particularly deep stillness in wintertime, especially when the snow is deep. Snowshoeing beside the river in silence, we felt the full weight of the dead of winter, broken only by the rippling sound coming from spots of open water. We watched the full moon rise over the river and spent time around the stupa looking up at the stars. On Saturday morning, we snowshoed and skied along trails in a nearby conservation area. While skiing, Arjava and I had a typical male-bonding experience. We got lost, had trouble downloading the map onto Arjava’s cell phone and had to walk down a road to find the trail back to the car. The retreat was filled with the customary comforting rituals - morning and eve-
Path of Practice Group Update By Dh. Khemavassika In January, sixteen people from our Aryaloka sangha launched the Path of Practice program. This group meets monthly to connect and collectively deepen our practice in the Dharma. This is the first time the program has been offered, and members have learned that weather conditions and a busy center calendar create opportunities for flexibility and forbearance! Members range in experience from a newly-arrived Dharma explorer to an Order member. We all share a commitment to our group and to sharing our practice for a year. The group is closed to new participants for this year. Please watch for updates in future issues of the Vajra Bell. 6
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ning meditation, silence at night until breakfast, Dharma study and opportunities to speak to Order members one-onone. One of my favorite things was spending time in the shrine room alone, taking in the energy of the hundreds of thousands of hours that people have spent there meditating. On Saturday night, Akashavanda led
us in a Vajrasattva puja, concluding with our standing around a fire in the driveway, enthusiastically chanting the Vajrasattva mantra, “Om Vajrasattva samayam,” and eating chocolate-covered macadamia nuts. The retreat ended as always with chores, leftovers for lunch, a feeling of affection for Aryaloka and the other retreatants and some bittersweet regrets that it was over.
Appreciating the Generosity of Volunteers By Tricia McCarthy Volunteers are the heart and soul of Aryaloka. The falling snow took a night off in February, allowing about seventyfive sangha members to come together at Aryaloka to enjoy a warm volunteer appreciation celebration and comfort food. Arjava, Elizabeth Hellard, Bodhana and friends came through with their fine culinary skills, offering pasta dishes, eggplant parmesan, garlic bread and garden salad. Being a chocolate lover, I was thrilled to see the dessert – a delectable dark chocolate cake, a perfect ending to a perfect meal. Following dinner, the important work of volunteers was highlighted by several active sangha members, and all volunteers were recognized and thanked by name. Some join us for seasonal work
days or special events. Others help out by joining a kula – a group of volunteers gathered to serve a common purpose. Aryaloka has fourteen kulas working together to keep our spiritual home safe, strong and vibrant. New kula members are always welcome for such areas as gardening, fundraising, desktop publishing, groundskeeping, carpentry, the arts, working with children or community outreach – to name a few! If you have have skills or interests in any of these or other areas, consider contributing your time and talent to Aryaloka. Please call the office, and we can connect you with the kula of your choice. A sincere thanks to all of Aryaloka’s generous volunteers. Whether you are an occasional helper or an active kula member, your time and energy is appreciated. Many hands make light work. SPR ING 2015
Heartfelt Spiritual Friendship at the Outlying Sanghas Retreat By Dh. Sunada and Dh. Dharmasuri What’s the difference between an ordinary friendship and a spiritual friendship? That’s the question we grappled with at our fifth annual Outlying Sanghas Retreat in January. Every year, sangha members from New York, Boston, and Portland gather for a retreat over the three-day Martin Luther King weekend. All these sanghas are at least an hour’s drive from Aryaloka. For New Yorkers, it can be an epic six-hour journey. The idea for the event was hatched five years ago when Sunada noticed that many Boston sangha members, especially newcomers, felt shy or intimidated about going on an Aryaloka retreat. After all, they didn’t know anybody there. Since our sangha was too small to hold our own retreat, we booked a weekend when everyone could go together, and invited other distant similarly-sized sanghas. Voila! It was an instant hit. We’ve been getting together ever since. The framework for this year’s retreat came from Subhuti’s book, Buddhism and Friendship. Subhuti explains that there are three types of friendship, distinguished by what we value most in the relationship: 1. Pleasure: the main point is to have fun and enjoy each other’s company. 2. Usefulness: each serves a useful
Photos courtesy of Dharmasuri.
role to the other similar to business colleagues. 3. Pursuit of the good: the relationship is a vehicle for encouraging the good and the morally beautiful in each other. This third type, which Subhuti called the “beautiful friendship” or kalyana mitrata in Sanskrit, defines spiritual friendship. We spent the entire weekend unpacking what this might look like with each other and in our lives back at home.
One retreat highlight came on Sunday morning when Dharmasuri and Vajramati shared their own life stories around spiritual friendship. Reading and studying out of a book is useful, but nothing brings a concept to life like heartfelt personal accounts. Both very movingly shared their struggles and challenges, and how friendship ultimately pulled them through. Another highlight was the quickly arranged mitra ceremony on Sunday night for Chris Warnasch and Syma Afia. They had wanted to celebrate their ceremony with their home sangha in New York, so that friends and family could attend, but they felt so inspired by the retreat that they decided to do it then and there. We all thought that was a wonderful idea. Both Chris and Syma said they felt lovingly held by this extended sangha gathered around them. It was a truly beautiful evening that stood out as a peak moment of the weekend. It’s always great fun to shower our dear friends with rose petals. Though each yearly retreat feels wonderful and special, this year’s felt especially so. The focus on spiritual friendship helped us appreciate the beauty in each other more than usual. We felt like we not only understood what it all meant in our heads, but we also felt it in our hearts. The weekend was a full immersion in beautiful friendship – complete with warm hugs and tears of joy - that we won’t forget for a long time.
Great Movie Night and Discussion About Dharma in Prison By David Watt In early March, some sangha members gathered at Aryaloka for the monthly movie night to watch The Dhamma Brothers, a 2007 documentary about a meditation program established in Donaldson Correctional facility, a maximum security prison in Alabama. Inmates with little or no meditation experience were trained in the Vipassana technique and then plunged into a ten-day Noble Silence retreat. The story is told primarily in a series of interviews with the inmates, meditation teachers (who moved into the prison for the duration of the retreat), correctional officers, wardens, menSPRI NG 2 0 1 5
tal health providers and inmates’ relatives. Though there are many takeaways from the film, I found the inmates’ capacity to develop compassion for their victims, one another and themselves to be particularly moving. Following the film, Bodhana led a discussion about the Khanti Outreach Project and the sangha in the Concord State Prison. Khemavassika and two alumni of the Concord sangha joined us. The discussion covered practical aspects of arranging meditation sessions and retreats in prison, the complex bureaucracy and politics involved, and how sangha members support one another. The former inmates spoke of how much the visits and
letters they received lightened the burden of incarceration, and how the Dharma had transformed their lives. Khemavassika described the profound rewards of her work in the prison for the last ten years and the importance of enlisting more Aryaloka sangha members to become visitors and pen pals.
Please be sure Aryaloka’s windows stay closed in winter and remember to close them when leaving the center in warmer months. Thank you! VAJ R A BE L L
Seeking Beauty: A Gateway to Freedom By Dh. Narottama Artists and philosophers throughout history have sought ways to express the concept of beauty. Plato considered beauty to be “the” idea above all other ideas. Aristotle argued that when you practice virtue, you aim at beauty. There are many references to beauty in the world’s religions, and one level of Buddhist meditation is even called “the beautiful.” Bob Dylan, in his song Shelter from the Storm, sings, “Beauty walks a razors edge; one day I’ll make her mine.” Beauty was the focus of a week-long retreat I attended in May last year at Adhisthana, in the rural English countryside, with my fellow Order members from Aryaloka: Satyada, Surakshita and Vidhuma. It was reported that upon hearing about this proposed Beauty and Eros retreat, Sangharakshita said, “Beauty is very important, beauty is very important.” Perhaps you know beauty, and are familiar with some ways that it speaks to you. Perhaps you are aware of beauty as it weaves through the fabric of your world and provides seemingly endless flashes of pleasure, harmony and growth in your life. Opening to and looking for the beautiful in our lives can lead to freedom from a clinging self-view and negative emotional states. It can give rise to joy and bliss and a deeper sense of participating in the magic of the universe. An intriguing attempt to label beauty comes from the Greek word horaios, from hora, meaning “hour.” To the Greeks, beauty was associated with “being in one’s hour” or “of its time,” suggesting that, for instance, a peach at its peak of color and ripeness is expressing its deepest beauty. An older person attempting to look younger or a younger person struggling to appear more mature was not considered an expression of beauty. This sounds a bit like “suchness,” discovered when Buddhists explore the realms of Reality. Three characteristics of beauty were drawn out at the retreat: First, beauty is incomprehensible. It cannot be nailed down, packaged and possessed. It is beyond the intellect’s ability to know or grasp. Beauty defies definition. Second, beauty can be intensely plea8
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beauty as we ponder ourselves, staring “at nothing, intricately drawn nowhere,” and do not see it. The hero, striving to awaken, and seeking “luminous air,” might catch a glimpse or distant sound of beauty. Euclid alone has looked on Beauty bare. Let all who prate of Beauty hold their peace, And lay them prone upon the earth and cease To ponder on themselves, the while they stare At nothing, intricately drawn nowhere In shapes of shifting lineage; let geese Gabble and hiss, but heroes seek release From dusty bondage into luminous air. O blinding hour, O holy, terrible day, When first the shaft into his vision shone Of light anatomized! Euclid alone Has looked on Beauty bare. Fortunate they Who, though once only and then but far away, Have heard her massive sandal set on stone. surable, delightful and inspiring. It draws us in. This path is always available; you know it when you feel it. It is a “wow” experience that seeks to be shared, not just seeing something as pretty with a pleasing veneer. It can also be subtle, catching you off guard with a whisper. Third, the object of beauty has the characteristic to transcend itself and draw us higher, provided we do not try to “make it mine.” Subtle ego appropriation taints beauty, changing it into something else. You engage and participate in beauty when you allow the experience to unfold and then witness that unfolding. The path of beauty rises like a ladder from a pile of dukkha - with rungs of everhigher stages - which transcends suffering and points to something beyond our everyday perceptions and preferences; our likes and dislikes. We can begin the search for beauty with our smallest experiences, seeing them as part of a larger experience that is always calling us. Edna St. Vincent Millay’s poem Euclid Alone attempts to capture the meaning and significance of beauty. She uses Euclid, often referred to as the “father of geometry,” as an example of moving towards perfection, with a form or idea or principle that reflects a higher order of affairs. She speaks of those of us who gabble and hiss about
Seeking beauty? The word “seeking” seems to point to desire (tanha), a thirst for something. Isn’t desire unskillful? What kind of desire are we talking about? Let’s look at three levels of desire, three levels or categories that are not definitive. They overlap, have gray areas and can be interpreted in many ways. It is in the ethical plane where our life energy (eros) comes in contact with the world and all it consists of, inner and outer. The first level of desire is instinctual, a semi-conscious desire for safety, food or reproduction. The second is the self-conscious ego supporting desires. The third is a longing for something beyond our physical needs and preferences and our own special likes and dislikes. The search for truth, love, beauty and the good can be seen as this third type of desire – to seek more refined states of skillfulness as we engage more deeply with the world. Shantideva, an 8th century Buddhist monk, expressed his heartfelt desire to see the Buddha and reality itself: “Constantly, constantly, I long to see the Buddha.” The desire to engage with beauty is a positive skillful practice until we commit the common human mistake of attempting to appropriate it to build up our ego. continued on page 22 SPR ING 2015
Purification of a Stupa
Visit and dedication with Dhardo Tulku Rinpoche
By Barry Timmerman Editor’s Note: Dhardo Tulku Rinpoche and his attendant Sersang visited Aryaloka in March to dedicate the stupa that contains precious relics from Sangharakshita’s teacher and friend, the 13th Dhardo Rinpoche. Here are sangha member Barry Timmerman’s reflections on the visit and dedication. I write these words with appreciation and inspiration. With Dhardo Rinpoche and Sersang’s visit to America and Aryaloka complete, I share my personal reflections here on the interactions, conversations and connections I made with these wonderful men. This is what my eyes saw, my ears heard, and my heart felt. Khemavassika and I had the honor of picking up Dhardo Rinpoche and Sersang at Boston’s Logan Airport. Karma being on our side, we found a parking spot directly in front of Terminal E. It wasn’t difficult to spot two Buddhist monks in maroon robes! After introducing ourselves, we departed Logan for a longer than usual trek back to Aryaloka. Boston traffic invited us to practice acceptance, patience and mindfulness. I felt a strong sense of responsibility to transport these precious human beings safely and smoothly. After eighteen hours on airplanes (from Mumbai to London to Boston), our guests were tired but happy to be back in the U.S. On the ride north, there was quiet and respectful conversation with some napping (by Dhardo and Sersang, not me). Sersang expressed joy at seeing snow and said he felt like he was home in Tibet, where he had been a monk before coming to India. Interpreting for Sersang, Dhardo Rinpoche said Sersang had not been in Tibet for more than fifteen years – the last time he saw snow. After Sersang arrived at the monastery in India, he was asked to serve as Dhardo Rinpoche’s attendant. Initially, the assignment was to be for three years. Three years turned into fifteen years, and then into a lifetime commitment. The two appear to have a complex relationship. There is affection, protection, mentoring, ritual and mutual appreciation. There was much Tibetan spoken between them. Sersang is a kind man with a knowing twinkle in his eye and a frequent smile. SPRI NG 2 0 1 5
What he lacked in English language skills, he more than made up for in his ability to connect in non-verbal ways. Arriving at Aryaloka, we carried luggage into Akashaloka, where Perry, Frank and Daniel waited for us. A hot, delicious meal simmered on the stove. Over dinner, Dhardo spoke of his family in Kalimpong and going to a Catholic school as a young child where he learned English. At age five, he was recognized as the reincarnation of the 13th Dhardo Rinpoche. At age ten, he began his studies at the monastery where he lives today. Daniel and I played guitars before dinner and Dhardo enjoyed our playing. He spoke of the musicality that runs through his family and how a family member invented the Tibetan guitar. I told Dhardo Tulku he would make an excellent guitar player, because he has long fingers and strong hands. He smiled and said maybe I could teach him how to play. Dhardo Tulku spoke of his predecessor the 13th Dhardo Rinpoche and how he had been convinced to become abbot of a monastery. Initially, because of health reasons, he declined the offer. Someone had gone to the Dalai Lama’s mother, with whom the 13th Dhardo had a relationship. He had provided her with healing pujas during times of ill health. The “Holy Mother,” as she was known to many, was persuaded to ask Dhardo to reconsid-
er. Because of his respect for her, the 13th Dhardo couldn’t say no. We laughed about politics all over the world. Sersang was especially joyful over dinner. He loves noodles, and the hearty vegetable soup had lots of them. Dhardo shared his own experience of being asked to be abbot of a small monastery in Darjeeling that had been without one for years. The monks had lost their daily routines and rules, and the place had fallen into disrepair. Dhardo shared the challenges of reintroducing structure and rules for these leaderless monks, all much older than he is. He spoke of building improvements and of helping the monastery become part of the community again. Before retiring for the night, we finalized plans to prepare the stupa for the purification puja the next day. We would work with Sersang, who had brought ritual objects from India, to festoon the stupa, along with other symbolic additions that Aryaloka provided. The next morning, Daniel and I woke early and did a Metta Bhavana meditation. Perry prepared breakfast. We were pleasantly surprised to be joined by Vajramati, who had arrived late the night before, and Vidhuma. Dhardo and Sersang had slept well and were well-rested. After their morning ritual, they joined us for breakfast. There was joy and anticipation among us. Vidhucontinued on page 22 VAJ R A BE L L
from the council Continued from Page 3
liness palpable, to strangers as well as to those we have known well and for a long time? We could keep questions like these flowing - about how we relate to each other as a community and to understand our vitality. Once we finish our inquiry into our community’s patterns of relating to one another, we must turn our attention to a more individualized study of our spiritual vitality. Are people in our community meditating? Are they moving beyond just sitting on a cushion to become aware of what moves through their minds? Are they becoming increasingly aware of their own mental states and managing them thoughtfully? Do they communicate with others about their meditation experiences? Next, we come to questions about our values and how we live them. Are we living our lives according to Buddhist values and precepts? Are those precepts becoming ingrained in our behavior? Are we becoming naturally generous with our time, energy and possessions? Are we honest, direct and kindly in our speech? Are we “at peace” with ourselves as well as with others? Are we clearer and more insightful about our every action and how the web of consequences shapes us and our world? The SVC is just beginning to think about these questions. I encourage you to help by considering them yourself. What do you think about our community’s spiritual well-being? Share, then, your thoughts with us. The members of the SVC are Amala, Arjava, Dayalocana, Karunasara, Khemavassika, Surakshita and myself (Vidhuma). Contact any of us directly by e-mail or telephone. Our contact information is in the office and will soon be available on the website. You can always leave any communication for us with the Aryaloka office. We welcome hearing from you. Would you like to contribute to Vajra Bell, or do you have feedback? We’d love to hear from you! Please contact any of our kula members listed in the box on the right of Page 2. 10 VAJ R A BE LL
Join the Delegation to India By Viradhamma India is the homeland of the Buddha, and hundreds of thousands of Buddhists go on pilgrimage there every year to see the places where he lived and taught. What is less well-known is that in recent years millions of poor people in India have converted to Buddhism as a spiritual practice and a path to escape the oppression of the caste system. DharmaJiva (Dharma Renaissance) is a non-profit organization that is working to raise awareness of this important Buddhist movement. Since 2012, Dharmajiva has organized delegations of Western Buddhists for guided tours that visit the famous pilgrimage sites in northern India and travel to central India to experience the Buddhist revival that is transforming the lives of so many people. In northern India, the DharmaJiva delegations are led by Manidhamma, a Triratna Order member and experienced guide. He is familiar with the sites at Bodh Gaya, Sarnath, Nalanda, Rajgir, Shravasti and Kusinara. In addition to his lectures, he creates opportunities for group meditation, ritual
and sutra readings at the different sites. In Maharashtra (central India), the delegations travel through Mumbai, Pune and Nagpur and have opportunities to get to know people living in Buddhist neighborhoods. The chance to see what life is like for ordinary Indian people is a unique aspect of the DharmaJiva program. The tour also includes seminars on Indian history, culture and society. The delegations meet Buddhist teachers and visit schools, clinics and meditation retreat centers. During this phase of the trip Manidhamma is joined by Viradhamma, an Order member based in San Francisco who has been traveling to India regularly since 2005. This coming October DharmaJiva is sponsoring a new delegation that will include an opportunity to participate in the annual gathering of hundreds of thousands of Buddhists at the Diksha Bhumi grounds in Nagpur. This event celebrates the mass conversion ceremony led by Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar in 1956. Western visitors to the festival are welcomed with great affection by the Indian Buddhists. Participation in the delegation is open to Buddhists from all traditions, and the planned itinerary runs from October 13th to November 2nd, 2015. Anyone curious about participating in a trip to India is encouraged to email DharmaJiva@gmail. com or visit www.buddhist-tours-india. com for more information. SPR ING 2015
Reflections on the Ninth Precept By Tom Gaillard
resonates with me:
At a recent retreat for North American men in the ordination process at Aryaloka, we studied the Ten Precepts that Order members take on at ordination. The ninth precept particularly
I undertake the item of training which consists in abstention from hatred. Changing hatred into compassion, I purify my mind. Some of us may feel that we don’t hate people. Hatred is a strong word, an extreme emotion that may have little relevance to our 21st-century American lives. In earlier times, hatred may have seemed more evident. Consider Romeo and Juliet, the tragedy of two wealthy Verona families locked in a longstanding feud. In the first scene, two Capulet servants observe, “The quarrel is between our masters, and us their men.” Soon there’s a brawl, and the townspeople gather round, shouting, “Strike! Beat them down! Down with the Capulets! Down with the Montagues!” These four servants have much in common. Had they worked for the same family, they likely would have been friends. But they take on a longstanding family enmity as their own. The populace doesn’t care who’s right or wrong. They don’t care about the feud. They’re just tired of the fighting. This is a characteristic of hatred: even those not directly included in hatred are ensnared by it. In his 2009 commencement speech at Kenyon College, David Foster Wallace told a story of two young fish, chatting and swimming along. They meet an older fish swimming the other way who nods and says, “Morning, boys. How’s the water?” The two young fish swim on when one of
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them turns to the other and asks, “What the hell is water?” We are all surrounded by our “water,” the conditions in which we live. For the Verona citizens, the water is polluted with hatred. We’re never told what the feud’s about; the cause doesn’t matter. It just is; it’s in the water. The presence of this unseen hatred drives the play, and leads the young lovers – and many others – to a tragic end. Few of our hatreds have such dramatic consequences. For example, my daughters and I love to cheer on the Boston Bruins. We “hate” their rivals and root for them to lose. When the B’s go on the offensive and deliver big hits, we cheer. But sometimes, when the rival is sprawled on the ice, hurt, we catch ourselves. Do we really “hate” that opponent so much that we wished him bodily harm? In another example, don’t we “hate” it when some jerk in front of us drives really slowly? Especially when we’re in a hurry? Aren’t we justified in riding their bumper? But notice how our emotions change when we realize that the person is heading in our direction and even turns into the driveway and parks next to us at Aryaloka. Driving and sports rivalries are not that far from hatred. Sangharakshita tells us the “general sense of the word (hatred) is that of wishing evil.” Rooting for hockey players to get hit sounds uncomfortably close to wishing evil. In her book, Not About Being Good, Subhadramati defines hatred to include a whole grab bag of emotions: “irritation, resentment, passive aggression, blame, righteous indignation, rage at other people or even at inanimate objects.” If we don’t thank we “hate” people, can we honestly say we don’t feel irritation or resentment? At least once a week? Once a day? Hopefully not once an hour! In Subhadramati’s words, “Hatred causes our perspective to narrow. Our fixed attitude causes us to interpret the actions of our ‘enemy’ only in negative terms.” By cherishing our differences, our “rightness,” we conflict with those
Newmarket, NH Portland, ME Cambridge, MA
who don’t align with us. Our tools of mindfulness and hatred’s antidote – compassion – help us generate a more skillful response. Returning to that slow driver, let’s consider: I notice my agitated state, which opens up a number of possibilities. Perhaps the driver isn’t driving this way just to annoy me! He’s just driving slowy. Driving this slowly will only cost me a few seconds or minutes. I’ve been given a tremendous gift – a drive without the risk of a speeding ticket, and a reduced chance of an accident. I notice things that otherwise would have gone unremarked, in my mind or in the surroundings. We can cultivate an open perspective more formally while working with our “enemy” in stage four of the Metta Bhavana practice. Our negative feelings may be based on elements of this person’s behavior in a particular environment. Are there other ways in which the person contributes positively to the world? Are there other attributes we can appreciate about this person? This individual has a family, a social life, a community life that we may know nothing about. In our hatred we see only a narrow part, and focus our ill will on an even smaller portion. By expanding our narrow perspective through the conscious application of compassion, “hatred” opens to an appreciation of the whole person. There are many difficulties in our “water.” Hatred isn’t always arbitrary, as with Romeo & Juliet, or trivial, like sports rivalries or erratic drivers. There are wars, and sworn enemies fighting over territory, resources and beliefs. President Obama recently observed, “The world’s always been messy.” He went on to say we notice it more now, because of social media’s immediacy. Perhaps that’s a benefit of our online society: it brings us closer to the brutality and destruction caused by hatred. In that recognition, we have an opportunity to develop ever-stronger responses based on compassion.
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Meeting Bhante: Encounters with Sangharakshita, Esteemed Teacher and Founder of the Triratna Buddhist Community
o truly understand the Triratna Buddhist Community itâ€™s vital to connect with the mind and heart of the man who started it all. Sangharakshitaâ€™s vision is the thread that runs through every Triratna sangha throughout the world. Here are the stories of people who have met him and their connections with our great teacher...
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How to Build and Deepen Your Connection to Triratna’s Founder and Teacher By Dh. Sanghadevi Editor’s Note: Sanghadevi is an Order member who lives in Cambridge, England. She first met Sangharakshita forty years ago, and was ordained by him in 1977. As a public and private preceptor, she has ordained more than 100 women around the world over a period of fifteen years. This is an edited version of a talk she gave at the retreat for women in the ordination process at Aryaloka this past fall. She shared her connection with Sangharakshita and inspired and encouraged us to build and deepen our sense of Bhante. “Buddhism can be understood and practiced anywhere in the world, because Buddhism addresses itself to the individual human being regardless of race, nationality, caste, sex or age. Buddhism is therefore the religion of man. “This is one of the reasons why I am a Buddhist. I believe that humanity is basically one. I believe that it is possible for any human being to communicate with any other human being, to feel for any other human being, to be friends with any other human being. This is what I truly and deeply believe. This belief is part of my own experience. It is part of my own life. It is part of me. I cannot live without this belief, and I would rather die than give it up. To me, to live means to practice this belief.” ~ Sangharashita, speaking in a slum in India, many years ago Sangharakshita is a man whose sympathies are broad and deep as this quote indicates. He has been on this planet for 89 years; for 73 of those years he has followed in the Buddha’s footsteps. For the past 46 years he has supported, guided and encouraged the spiritual growth of the Triratna Order. He is the founder and an elder in our midst with a vast wealth of human and spiritual experience. My connection with Sangharakshita 14 VAJ R A BE LL
goes back forty years, and he has had a profound influence on my life. Through him the treasures of the Dharma were revealed, and for that I am tremendously grateful. He has been my main Dharma teacher, my preceptor and my friend. I’ve been fortunate to be close to Sangharakshita many times in study seminars, talks, meditations, pujas, meals, personal interviews, informal impromptu meetings and walks. I’ve written to him and he to me. He’s phoned me on occasion and I him. I’ve confessed to him, and he has received my confessions with kindness and compassion. For years, I would meet with him to work through questions arising from my responsibilities within Triratna, or, at times, regarding my meditation or Dharma reading. Recently, our communication has become almost entirely personal, and our meetings invariably conclude with a warm parting hug. I am aware of his bony frame. As I am rather slim, it sometimes feels like
bones hugging bones, a strong teaching in impermanence. I’ve seen Sangharakshita serious, playful, tender, uncompromisingly honest and direct, concerned, attentive and kind. My first contact with him was via a taped lecture being played in the basement of a disused piano factory in North London which later became Pundarika, the White Lotus, one of the first public centers of the then Friends of the Western Buddhist Order (FWBO). The lecture was The Symbolism of the Tibetan Wheel of Life. Listening to this stranger’s voice, I was convinced I found someone to guide me on the path of peace. It was 1974; I was twenty and Sangharakshita was forty-nine. Two years later, during a summer retreat on a Sufi farmstead in South England I heard Sangharakshita speak about the importance of developing a healthy selflove as reflected in the first Metta Bhavana stage. It sunk in that I needed to give more continued on page 15 SPR ING 2015
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attention to this stage. Just two years later, though, Sangharakshita also cautioned us to not turn the next three stages of the Metta Bhavana into a narcissistic self-massage. This graphic image really struck me. These stages are about viewing the other person beyond one’s subjective responses to them. My first personal interview with Sangharakshita occurred late 1976 after I heard him give a riveting discourse on the Confession chapter from the Sutra of Golden Light earlier that autumn. As Sangharakshita spoke of our need to free ourselves of irrational guilt, I became aware of my own fear of authority and rejection. I was grateful to him for bringing to light some deep conditioning that I suffered from and felt a strong wish to speak with him personally. During the interview, I put to him my main question: “Why was it I found it hard to concentrate on the breath?” He looked directly at me and said, “Well, as we are sitting here talking I get the impression there is only half of you here talking to me. Well, actually a quarter of you. Well, an eighth of you. Well, I would even go so far as to say only one-tenth of you is here talking to me, and that is why you are finding it hard to concentrate on the breath.” He said this kindly, but each phrase reverberated through my being. Before we parted he shook my hand, and said some encouraging words to the effect: providing I made an effort in the right direction, enlightenment would come. While I was saying “yes,” I was really thinking, “Oh dear, it really did seem that only one-tenth of me was present.” Upon leaving I began to feel angry. By the time I was half-way to my bus stop, I was furious and ranting in my head, “What right had he to speak to me like that? He didn’t even know me.” Reaching the stop, I realized he had put his finger on something, and that’s why I was so stirred up. I felt quite sober on the journey home. When I later recounted this experience to Dhammadinna and Anoma, who were my kalyana mitras, they said I was fortunate because Sangharakshita was not often that direct with people. With this increased self-awareness and with further help from friends, I began to free up at least some of this hitherto unavailable energy. The following May, Sangharakshita ordained SPRI NG 2 0 1 5
me. The long view of Sangharakshita’s contributions Having perspective on Sangharakshita’s contribution to the establishment of the Buddhadharma as a living truth/path of practice in the modern world probably will not be possible until many years after his death. Sangharakshita was born in South London, UK in 1925. When he realized he was a Buddhist at age sixteen, the Dharma was little known and understood in the West. There were few texts translated, and many of them were of questionable quality. Moreover, few people were were putting serious effort into practicing the Buddha’s teachings. Sangharakshita was fortunate to be in India at the end of World War II, where he single-mindedly pursued the spiritual life. He discarded all worldly possessions and identity and took up the wandering life. In his memoir of this time, The ThousandPetalled Lotus: The Indian Journey of an English Buddhist, he points out that while India had been the country where the Buddha lived and taught, many centuries had elapsed since the Buddhadharma had been widely practiced in India. While Sangharakshita drew inspiration from being “in the land of the Buddha,” he still had to work things out as he went along. In fact, some of his spiritual teachers at this early stage were not Buddhists. Through his first main Buddhist teacher, Venerable Jagdish Kashyap, he ended up at age twenty-four in Kalimpong in Northern India. His teacher returned to the plains and exhorted Sangharakshita to stay and work for the good of Buddhism. Sangharakshita felt too inexperienced but felt that his teacher was not to be disobeyed. He had decided to make a practice of doing whatever his teacher asked as a way to go beyond the self-grasping mind. So he bowed in acquiescence. The year was 1950. He remained in Kalimpong for more than fourteen years. In 1964 at the invitation of the English Sangha Trust, Sangharakshita returned to England and got his first taste of doing Dharma work in the West. This was the beginning of the conditions that led him to start the FWBO in 1967. The trust was one of the main Buddhist organizations in Britain and had existed for about fifty years, but it was still a very small movement.
Some of the people holding responsibility, while being sympathetic to Buddhism, were not actually Buddhists. They could not bring the energy and conviction of practicing Buddhists to the work of spreading the Dharma. This awareness led Sangharakshita to found the order in 1968 so individual Buddhists could cooperate together to benefit others. Sangharakshita’s place within the Order Sangharakshita describes his place within Triratna in My Relation to the Order, given as a paper to the Order in 1990 and later published as a booklet. There are several dimensions to his relationship to the Order. First, he observes, it is not just a question of his relation to the Order, there is also the question of the Order’s relation to him – two sides of a single coin. It is a mutual relationship. He went on to say that he would speak mainly in terms of his relation to the Order. He left it to Order members to work out for themselves their relation to him. He also warns that his thinking was very much a “work in progress.” Sangharakshita talks about how important the Order, along with the spiritual and worldly career of each Order member, is to him. How we are getting along really matters to him. He writes: “Conflict and disharmony within the Order are extremely painful to me, even as they are damaging to the Order as a whole and detrimental to each and every individual Order member... Conflict and disharmony represent a negation of the ideals for which the Order stands. They represent a negation of the Order’s very existence. When conflict and disharmony arise within the Order, therefore, even to the slightest extent, they should be resolved as quickly as possible, and peace and harmony restored.” The nature of Sangharakshita’s relation to the Order First, as founder of the Order, Sangharakshita, more than anyone else, is responsible for its very existence. Of course, it involves others’ cooperation, interest in and willingness to be part of the Order. Second, he stands as preceptor to a large number of Order members, having ordained about 370 men and women. continued on page 16 VAJ R A BE L L 15
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Not until 1989, twenty-one years after founding the Order, did Sangharakshita share responsibility for ordination. To those ordained by others, he stands as the preceptor’s preceptor or even the preceptor’s preceptor’s preceptor. And so it will go on with each new generation of preceptors. Third, he is the Order’s primary teacher of the Dharma even though he has not taught all Order members personally. In 1990 he wrote, “This is not to say I have elucidated the Dharma at every single point, only that I have elucidated it in certain fundamental respects. It is not to say I have finished elucidating the Dharma. There may be many more elucidations to come. Also, this does not preclude Order members elucidating points not elucidated by me, providing this is done in accordance with the spirit of my elucidations. . . Whilst other Order members have started elucidating my elucidations. This is the way a tradition – a lineage – begins to develop.” Today, a wealth of Dharma material is available in Triratna stemming from talks and other teachings given by Order members worldwide. Nevertheless, Sangharakshita still stands as spiritual teacher or teacher of the Dharma in the sense that all Order members have received a basic training in the Dharma as elucidated and translated by Sangharakshita. This training has come about in part through participation as mitras in the mitra study program as well as retreats offered to men and women who are in the ordination process. It also comes about through immersion for a period of time in the overall “culture” of Triratna at our various centers worldwide. Sangharakshita says one cannot
really communicate as a teacher without friendliness; maitri. One cannot be a spiritual teacher without being a spiritual friend, a kalyana mitra. Thus, Sangharakshita stands in the Order as spiritual friend. He indicates that he is content with the appellation “friend,” given that the word kalyana means beautiful, charming, auspicious, helpful and morally good. “Obviously,” he writes, “I cannot claim to be beautiful, at least not in the literal sense, and I can hardly be described as charming, though I may be auspicious and helpful on occasion and morally good to some extent.” The Triratna Order rests on certain key ideas, the most important being the centrality of Going For Refuge. Commitment is primary, lifestyle secondary. The Order transcends the monk/lay divide which hampers the spiritual progress of so many Buddhists in the East and probably a fair number in the West. Triratna offers men and women the same ordination. Spiritual friendship and other concepts are also key and have emerged from Sangharakshita’s study, reflection and practice, his personal contact with Buddhists from all three Yanas and his breadth of knowledge of Western culture and history. Thanks to him, we have a body of teachings and practices which hang together doctrinally and methodologically. This makes it possible for us to practice as a sangha, as a community. How to build your own sense of Sangharakshita We learn the Dharma through Sangharakshita’s recorded talks, the wealth of literature published by Windhorse, and the teachings of Order members whose
Glimpses of My Teacher Sangharakshita By Dh. Surakshita I encountered the Triratna Buddhist Order (TBO) in November 1988 when I attended two introductory meditation sessions. The teachers had very 16 VAJ R A BE LL
strange names: Manjuvajra and Ratnapani. They taught me the Mindfulness of Breathing and the Metta Bhavana practices. I was so excited - I thought I had hit the mother lode, and I had. For six years, I had considered myself a Buddhist after reading as many books as I could. These experts taught esoteric practices that I knew immediately would impact my consciousness. I was hooked
practice and approach are in harmony with what Sangharakshita has taught. We have a vast range of material from Sangharakshita, quite possibly more than any other contemporary Buddhist teacher. Given the pioneering nature of Triratna and that we are establishing a new tradition cum lineage, it’s important that we read Sangharakshita as widely as possible, for our own sakes and for others. The spoken and written word is the principle means Sangharakshita communicates. To develop a connection with and learn from him, read and reflect on his life and work. In addition to reading his books or listening to his talks, I encourage anyone wanting to connect with Sangharakshita to read some of his memoirs, beginning with The ThousandPetalled Lotus, and his poetry. His writings are like doorways through which we get to know him, his personal history, his character, his personality, his unfolding exploration of the Dharma, and what it means to be a Buddhist practicing the Buddhadharma in the modern world. Although the Order was founded forty-six years ago, it is still a very young tradition. Sangharakshita’s vision is of the Order being a force for good in the world, a Bodhisattva. This reflects his deep belief that when individuals come together inspired by the Dharma they are mutually encouraged to go beyond narrow self interest and are thus better able to work effectively for the common good. Sangharakshita has a large vision that comes from a sense of what the world needs. The Dharma has much to offer through individuals living and embodying the Dharma, cooperating to support the creative flowering of each and every human being on the planet. A big project in which our Order has an important part to play.
and signed up to take a course to go along with my newfound meditation practice. The course covered the book, The Buddhist Vision, by Dharmachari Subhuti. I had purchased it a month earlier and was studying it. Was this a coincidence? It certainly was propitious. Manjuvajra taught the course to six of us, three of whom are Order members today. I had jumped into this and had no idea who these men with their strange sounding names were. The advertisement said they continued on page 17 SPR ING 2015
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were “Friends of the Western Buddhist Order (FWBO).” That meant nothing to me, but it did have “Buddhist” in the title. That was good enough for me. Over the next two to three months, the FWBO (now the TBO), came into clearer focus. It was started in England by an English Buddhist monk named Sangharakshita which means “protector of the sangha.” He had spent eighteen years in India studying with great masters, and his interest was in bringing Buddhism to the West. He had founded an Order and now some of its members were in Newmarket, NH, in the U.S. What great good luck for me and others in the area! I was introduced to Sangharakshita’s magnum opus, A Survey of Buddhism, which I studied. My old copy is filled with yellow highlights, and to this day this book is considered fundamental study for the Order. It is packed with Buddhist history and philosophy. It is also dense, comprehensive and intellectually intimidating. I listened to tapes of his lectures; his clarity, knowledge and reverence for the Dharma blew me away. I read his first memoir, The Thousand Petalled Lotus, and realized that this was a man who had led a radical lifestyle in the footsteps of the historical Buddha. He lived in India, wore robes prescribed by the Buddha for monks, carried a begging bowl and walked the dusty roads searching for the Buddha. Try that in your next lifetime! His image loomed large for me, and in 1990 Sangharakshita came to visit Aryaloka. Along with the Order members, we planned for Sangharakshita’s visit, which would include a formal greeting ceremony. When he arrived from the airport, a group of us greeted him. We clapped enthusiastically and formed a formal procession into Aryaloka. When he was seated, we formed a line and one by one, with our hands folded together, solemnly saluted our teacher and founder of the Order. At that moment, I felt spiritually connected to him and still do today. I had a keen appreciation for his intellect, but what I first noticed about him was his incredible mindfulness. His speech and movements were very deliberate. What came to mind was that he must live in the Middle Way. He gave a talk about his teachers which, like the tapes I had listened to, was clear and pertinent. SPRI NG 2 0 1 5
I had a keen appreciation for his intellect, but what I first noticed about him was his incredible mindfulness. His speech and movements were very deliberate. What came to mind was that he must live in the Middle Way. Questions and answers followed. I did not ask a question for fear of being much too new to Buddhism to ask an intelligent one. He was gracious, though, in answering the questions he did get. During his stay, I had an opportunity to meet with him one-on-one. He was reserved but warm. He was interested in me, my family situation, my participation at Aryaloka and how I had come to the Dharma. The hour flew by. At the end, I felt very kindly towards him, and I had accepted him as my teacher. During that week, I also attended a talk at the Exeter Ioka Theater with him. The poet Gary Snyder spoke on his poetry and conservation efforts. After the talk, Sangharakshita went off with Snyder to renew their friendship and connection to the Dharma. They had been corresponding for years about the Dharma and social issues. Later, I would come to know that Sangharakshita had corresponded with major players – both women and men – in the Buddhist world since his time in Kalimpong, India. With this visit, he had cemented his Buddhist movement at Aryaloka and in North America. This was followed closely by the founding of the San Francisco Buddhist Center. My second contact with Sangharakshita was in 1993 when he visited Aryaloka again for a truly momentous occasion – the first ordinations in North America. He would be the public preceptor for the two ordinands – Carol Forest, who became Karunadevi and Alan Sponberg, who became Saramati. The ordinations were the culmination of several “Going For Refuge” retreats that I had attended. Again, I spent an hour with Sangharakshita and this time had a little more to say, and once again our
contact was cordial and heartfelt. The public ordinations were the focus of his visit. Aryaloka was jammed with people from the area, across the country and England. I had this wonderful feeling of being near my teacher at this special moment in time. I was overwhelmed with love and gratitude for him and the Three Jewels. I purposely (probably being pushy) picked a cushion for the ceremony right behind him so I could hear everything he said and be as close to this process as possible. When he entered the shrine room, we stood. He walked down the center aisle to his cushion. As he stepped onto the cushion, he slipped and started to fall. Being strategically positioned, I grabbed him, held him up and then gently helped him down onto his cushion. I was grateful to be able to help my teacher in this small way. I will always remember that as a holy moment in my spiritual path. I knew then that I wanted to be part of this Order. This moment would become an important part of my ordination. On August 3rd six years later, I was ordained privately by Subhuti and received the name Surakshita. You usually have no idea what is coming when you get your name, but, oh my goodness, my name had “rakshita” in it. I was dumbstruck. Following my public ordination, I asked Subhuti how he selected my name. He remembered that first ordination ceremony at Aryaloka and how I had assisted Sangharakshita. He saw love, respect and kindness for our teacher. He saw me trying to protect him, hence the “protector” in my name Surakshita, which means “great protector.” I like to think that Sangharakshita and the Three Jewels are protecting me. In 1999 and 2001, I traveled to England for the International Conventions. On both occasions I was with our teacher at a group dinner. I am sure he was amused having to meet this demonstrative crazy American again. The dinners were an exercise in mindfulness and a teaching in themselves. Over the years, Sangharakshita has always been available via correspondence, even with declining health. I last saw him in May a year ago when I attended a retreat at Adhisthana where he lives. Sadly, he was too sick to receive guests, and I had to be satisfied with seeing him at a distance on his sun porch. That could be the last time I see him directly. It doesn’t matter though, because he will always be my teacher. VAJ R A BE L L 17
Meeting Sangharakshita By Dh. Karunadevi On a March afternoon twentyseven years ago, a knock on my door was a turning point in my spiritual life. When I opened the door, there stood Alan Sponberg (now Saramati), a Buddhist Studies professor at Stanford University, with Manjuvajra, a senior member of the Western Buddhist Order (now Triratna Buddhist Order) and chair of the Aryaloka Retreat Center in New Hampshire. I had met Alan a few months before at a Buddhist Council of Northern California meeting. Manjuvajra had been invited to give a talk at Stanford and to lead a meditation day. Manjuvajra told me that his teacher had been good friends with my teacher, and he gave me a photo of a young Sangharakshita with Lama Govinda taken in India in the late 1950s or early 60s. That photo still rests on my shrine today. That memory carries with it a sense of wonder, curiosity and awe. I am almost lightheaded thinking about it. I wondered, “What does this mean? What is coming together here?” That was my introduction to Sangharakshita and the Triratna Buddhist Order and Community. A month later we started a meditation/study group that eventually became the San Francisco Buddhist Center. Five years later, in 1993, I was ordained into the Order by Sangharakshita at Aryaloka. My personal contact with Bhante My relationship with Bhante Sangharakshita has developed through his teachings, his writings, and several meetings with him — the most significant, of course, being my ordination, when he gave me my name and I received the ordination vows and blessings from him. Living in San Francisco, more than 6,000 miles away from him, has limited my personal contact with Sangharakshita. I saw him only three or four times before I was ordained, once when he came to NH to visit (that was the first) and then two or three times in London. The time I remember most was in March 1993 when I was in the UK for an 18 VAJ R A BE LL
ordination training retreat at Taraloka. I met with Bhante before traveling to the retreat. I talked about a tendency of mine that I was trying to understand. He listened intently, nodded and said something encouraging. In the same meeting, I asked him if he might ordain me when he came to New Hampshire in May to ordain Alan. He looked at me and said that if the women’s ordination team felt I was ready, he would be happy to ordain me! As he said that, I saw a brilliant golden light appear around his face, and his smile was extraordinary. Since my ordination I have met with him several times at Order conventions and twice when he visited San Francisco. My most recent meeting with him was at Adhisthana last year. Each meeting has been both ordinary and not so ordinary — a gentle exhortation, such as to put more time into meditation, to remember that people need encouragement, to be kind and sensitive, and sometimes his personal sharing about a topic like aging. What more could I ask? Why I am a disciple of Sangharakshita Disciple is a word that Bhante has not often used, and is a word not appealing to some people. Yet recently he has said that is how he sees those of us he has ordained: that we are his disciples or disciples of his disciples. To me, this means that I resonate with and accept his elucidation of the Dharma; I learn from him and share his views. This does not mean, he says, that we are to bow down to him or see him as being perfect. He wants disciples who think for themselves and engage with him. He is a human being who has brilliant abilities to grasp and interpret the Buddhadharma and who has done an extraordinary thing in founding this Order through which more than 1,600 people have now committed their lives to the Buddhist path. I have immense gratitude and appreciation for Sangharakshita on two levels: (1) for creating a Buddhist Order that reflects the needs and recognizes the issues of the modern world; and (2) personally for his teachings and restatement of the Buddha’s principles that inspire and guide me through life. The ethos he has encouraged in the Order and movement has shaped our
public centers, the practices that we teach, our emphasis on friendship and communication, and our way of doing business together and making decisions. He stresses a balance of meditation, dharma study, ritual and devotion, as well as friendship that is evident in Triratna community centers. I resonate strongly with this Triratna “culture” that provides a comprehensive framework for shaping my Buddhist practice and supporting my life’s work, each feeding and enhancing the other. Through these practices I have experienced a level of integration of inner and outer work in the world that I believe could not have otherwise been possible. Some significant teachings of Bhante continue to inspire me in deeper ways. One is a lecture by Bhante that I heard during my first visit to Aryaloka: The Individual, the Group, and the Spiritual Community. I was profoundly inspired by the courage of this individual to address the pitfalls of what he was in the process of setting up, warning us that it would fail without a radical shift in our views of ourselves and the society we were relating to. I yearned to become that kind of “individual” and to let go of both attachment to and rejection of the “groups” I was part of. I could see clearly how personal transformation and social change go hand in hand, and that we must work on both simultaneously. Following this teaching, I studied The Bodhisattva Ideal, that further clarified this subject of individuality and altruism. I was hooked; this was my spiritual community! Bhante has done something revolutionary in the Buddhist world, drawing on his vast knowledge of the Buddha’s teachings and making the spirit of those teachings accessible. The worldwide Triratna Buddhist Order provides equal ordinations for both men and women; the ordinations are neither lay nor monastic and are based on traditional Buddhist precepts and vows. He has re-emphasized the act of Going for Refuge to the Three Jewels as the primary definition of a Buddhist. Our ordination is founded on this act of “going for refuge effectively” in all aspects of our lives, as we continue to set up conditions for embodying “real going for refuge,” an irreversible state of being, characterized by insight into the nature of mind and an integration of wisdom, compassion and energy.
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Gathering Wisdom While We May: The Sangharakshita Library Editor’s note: Sangharakshita has long dreamed of starting a library that would preserve his lineage of teaching and bring together his 11,000 books on Buddhism, the Dharma and literature. Vidyadevi, who helped make it happen with her passion for the project and love of books, spoke at the dedication and opening of the library at Adhisthana in January. She described how the library grew out of a nucleus of 100 books that Bhante brought back with him from India and how Bhante’s vision of the library and Adhisthana looks not just to the past but also to the future. This is an edited version of her talk. By Dh. Vidyadevi The history of this collection Sangharakshita’s love of books began early in life. Among his first teachers were the encyclopedias he had as a child when he was ill and confined to bed. He discovered Buddhism through two books – the Diamond Sutra and the Sutra of Hui Neng – that he bought as a teenager in London. He describes how after his family’s home was bombed during the war, he sifted through the rubble to rescue his book collection. During his years wandering in India, he kept a few precious books. When he settled in Kalimpong, though he had little money to spare, he gradually built a small collection. When he was editing Stepping Stones, a periodical that published works of pre-eminent Buddhist writers of the day, contributors gave him copies of their books. Bhante’s library then was the source of his understanding of the Dharma, as can be seen in the bibliography of his Survey of Buddhism, first published in 1957. When Bhante returned to England, his books followed him. Not all survived the journey. Some were destroyed by white ants while in storage in Mumbai. The surviving 100 volumes became the nucleus of the Order library. Ananda, one of the original twelve Order members, looked after the library when it was based at Aryatara in South London. Later, the library was moved to Padmaloka, where I first came to know the collection. I worked on a publication called Mitrata that published Bhante’s lectures and seminar SPRI NG 2 0 1 5
extracts. Researching footnotes for Mitrata, I found that even obscure references and quotations could be found in the library, because those books were the source of much of Bhante’s teaching. The library moved with Bhante to Madhyamaloka in Birmingham, and Kalyanaprabha spent hours caring for the books in their hiding place in the garage beneath Bhante’s flat. She writes: “I wanted [future readers] to be able to find their books easily. But I was also increasingly aware of other dimensions to these books. They were Bhante’s books. They were a sort of bibliographical biography... The collection reflected his taste, his interests, and that in itself was a sort of teaching, an aspect of what Subhuti called cultural kalyana mitrata. And then some books carried dedications, like the
one from Alan Ginsberg. Others had a whole history: the Sutta Nipata, old Pali text versions now falling apart, with the inscription ‘E. H. Brewster,’ the artist who lived with D. H. Lawrence on the island of Capri where Lama Govinda also lived. Brewster gave them to Govinda, who later gave them to Bhante.” The collection has reached its final home at Adhisthana, where Bhante now lives. The search for Adhisthana began with Bhante’s wish for a library to house his books and collection of artifacts. He said the collection represents one of the four lineages he has spoken of – that of teaching. Over time, his vision of Adhisthana expanded to include the other three lineages: practice, inspiration and responsibility. People often describe the library as the heart of Adhisthana, not the brain or nerve center, but the beating heart. This building brings together and provides open access to Bhante’s Buddhist books and his other collections of literature, especially poetry. The collection relates to what Bhante calls the six distinctive emphases of our movement, the importance of higher culture to the spiritual life. Bhante says he has not read all of the nearly 11,000 books – some of them were donated by friends – but he gives the clear impression that he has read most of them! The library has several rooms leading off a beautiful central atrium. One room contains Dharma books, copies of Bhante’s own books (some in translation), books by other Order members, transcripts of study seminars and the complete works of Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar. We have gathered as many of the original 100 books as we could identify. They have their own shelves, their aged sepia and maroon bindings having a fading beauty. Another room contains Bhante’s other books on philosophy, psychology, poetry and art. A shrine room is adorned with thangkas and rupas from Bhante’s collection. Upstairs are rooms for pilgrims and a sitting room with views of the fields and sky. The atrium and balconies provide space for reflection and exhibits to display books and artifacts from the collection. The whole space will open in August to celebrate Bhante’s 90th birthday. The mythology of libraries Among the world’s great libraries was the one at Nalanda, the university in India that for centuries drew Dharma continued on page 20 VAJ R A BE L L 19
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practitioners and scholars from all over the Buddhist world. Today, Nalanda is in ruins, having been destroyed at the end of the 12th century CE. The library burned for several months, such was its size. We owe a lot of our knowledge of Nalanda to Xuan Zang, the famous Chinese Buddhist who journeyed for years across Asia and India before reaching his longed-for destination. The arduous journey of Xuan Zang and those of other teachers to bring precious copies of Dharma books back to their home country is often depicted in Chinese art, traditionally with the depiction of a pilgrim monk accompanied by a tiger. I was greatly taken with this image at a wonderful exhibition of Chinese art at the Victoria and Albert Museum recently. With a great frown of effort, the monk carries the Dharma books in a sort of backpack from which incense is rising, the incense being the grace or blessing of adhisthana, I suppose. This image symbolizes the great duty of the sangha over the ages to pass on the Buddha’s wisdom, and clearly shows what an effort that is, as well as the need for protection on the way in the form of the accompanying crazy-looking tiger. A copy of the image of the monk and the tiger is now on the wall in the library’s seminar room, as a reminder. It’s also an image of a personal journey – each of us with our own load of precious texts, chosen or prescribed, to suit our needs. Bhante speaks to this point in a
talk called Standing on Holy Ground that appears in a recent compilation of his teachings, Metaphors, Magic and Mystery, published to celebrate the library’s opening. Bhante offers advice about choosing our Dharma reading: “Some of us read far too much, which sometimes means we read hastily and superficially. And when I say ‘some of us,’ I’m afraid I have to include myself in this category. But fortunately some years ago I had a lucky escape, because I spent twelve whole years in Kalimpong and I didn’t have access to many books, even books on Buddhism... somehow I managed to build up a small collection of books, mainly on Buddhism, perhaps a hundred volumes... Most of these hundred volumes I read again and again. I got to know them thoroughly, both books about Buddhism and translations of the Buddhist scriptures, and this is what I suggest you try to do. Build up a small collection of Buddhist literature of your own. It doesn’t have to be 100 volumes. It need be only ten or twelve. But whatever the number, get to know them thoroughly. Read them again and again. Discuss them with your friends. Don’t always go running after something new, the latest publication or the latest theory about Buddhism.” How the library might be used With the digitization of everything now, aren’t libraries obsolete? To quote the Argentinian poet Jorge Luis Borges: “I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.” Some people will always
see libraries like that, a significant and beautiful part of their lives. But what is the use of a lot of dusty old books? I should point out that the books at Adhisthana have been carefully dusted by loving hands. Borges knew about libraries. The director of the National Public Library in Buenos Aires, he was blind by age fiftyfive, which some people feel enhanced his literary imagination. In his short story The Library of Babel, he imagines the universe as a library with identical hexagonal rooms stretching in all directions. The library contains books of every possible word combination. Most of them are complete gibberish, but somewhere among them truth and meaning must be found. At first this gives rise to great optimism in the population, and tremendous searches are instituted. Before long though, people lose hope of ever finding anything significant. The story was written in 1941, but it gives us a powerful symbol of the search for wisdom in our own digital age. The truth is out there somewhere, but how are we ever going to find what we are really looking for? What are we really looking for? How do we translate information into knowledge and knowledge into wisdom? The traditional Buddhist answer is threefold: listen, reflect and meditate. Consider the idea of a threefold gathering. It seems appropriate that the library building contains accommodation for pilgrims. Adhisthana is already a place for gatherings of people, meetings of old friends and continued on page 21
Buddhaworks The Aryaloka Bookstore
* Books by Sangharakshita * DVDs from Pema Chodron and Lama Surya Das * Meditation Journals * CDs from Thich Nhat Hanh
* Singing Bowls * Brass Door Chimes from Nepal and India * Malas and Jewelry * Lots and Lots of Great Books!
Your support brightens Aryaloka’s future. Buddhaworks is located at the Aryaloka Buddhist Center
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shared inspirations. The library itself is a gathering of the wisdom of the ages – so many great minds and poetic spirits. One might even say that a Dharma library is a sort of Maha Sangha. Our history as a movement is gathered here, too. As we unpacked the boxes, we were moved to discover a bound volume of the very first FWBO (Friends of the Western Buddhist Order) newsletters, and Bhante’s first expression, in Newsletter 1 dated 1968, of his hopes for this new movement. The word “gather” has other connotations, too. You can gather information in a systematic way, and scholars will want to come here to study and research. But “gathering” something may be acquiring a knowledge that you’ve absorbed from your surroundings. You’re not sure how – like the idea that one learns from a teacher just as a garment gathers moisture in the dew of early morning. You might imbibe something from the atmosphere of the Sangharakshita Library. You may even wool-gather, allowing your mind to drift as you watch the clouds move across the sky through the wide windows. There’s also the gathering of beauty, like a bunch of flowers, “gathering rosebuds while we may.” The library’s quiet atmosphere is a tradition from our culture. Seen positively, it need not be desiccated, dry-as-dust and harshly hushed, but a spacious and still space in which the mind can wander freely and connect with the wisdom of other minds... At times over the years the Sangharakshita Library has had a hidden, almost secret history. Now it is open and accessible to all. It can breathe in this beautiful space and has the opportunity to develop further. It is full of potential. It seems fitting to give Bhante the last word, taken from a sonnet he wrote in 1956 called Nalanda Revisited:
Aryaloka’s Buddhaworks bookstore now has a bulletin board. Please check it periodically for announcements. We welcome your feedback on how we are doing. The store is creating a children’s corner within the display case, and has added a used book section with all titles selling for $8. If you are weeding out your bookshelves at home, please consider donating your books to add to the collection. Bodhana found a used Pali-English dictionary that is reasonably priced. Eric Ebbeson’s creative work is offered for sale, including cards and bookmarks featuring his drawing of the stupa in honor of Dhardo Rinpoche. Proceeds from the sale of the bookmarks go towards the maintenance of the stupa.
Oh do not too much trust Arches that ruinate and gates that rust To guard the Buddha’s treasure for His own! Within our minds must Nalanda arise Before we draw up plans, or measure ground: If the foundation on our thoughts we lay, Calm meditation, contemplation wise, Above mundane vicissitudes shall found A Nalanda that cannot pass away.
Good news! We are welcoming another woman mitra to our sangha. Pam Raley of Dover is our library volunteer and has attended Aryaloka for about five years. She became a mitra in March. On Thursday evenings this winter when it did not snow - a group of eight women mitras studied the Triratna Refuge Tree – Sangharakshita’s teachers. Lilasiddhi co-taught with Khemavassika. This time though, the women taught the Order
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New at the bookstore - by Shantikirika New book arrivals: •
Buddhism, One Teacher, Many Traditions, co-authored by the Dalai Lama and Thubten Chodron
Offerings: Buddhist Wisdom for Every Day by Danielle and Oliver Follmi, featuring a year of daily quotes accompanied by beautiful photos
Daily Doses of Wisdom: A Year of Buddhist Inspiration edited by Josh Bartok
Loving-Kindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness, and Faith: Trusting Your Own Deepest Experience by Sharon Salzberg.
What’s New in the Children’s Sangha By Alisha Roberts The Children’s Sangha has been busy over the last six months. We are discussing the merits of random acts of kindness, the story of the Buddha and the Noble Eightfold Path. Meetings start with introductions, a short story and then a five- to eight-minute meditation. After meditation, the children begin a craft that demonstrates the discussion or the story they just read. Some crafts have included making meditation jars, Buddhist wheel origami, volcanoes, zentangles, painted rocks and colored mandalas. We also venture into the kitchen to make healthy snacks. In making snacks, we send thankfulness and loving-kind-
ness to the people who planted, packaged and distributed the ingredients we use. The Children’s Sangha typically meets on the second Sunday of the month at 2 pm. The first hour is geared towards children under ten, but older students are encouraged to come and help. The second hour is for the older children, who would like to have a longer meditation. We are discussing the book Buddha in Your Backpack: Everyday Buddhism for Teens by Frantz Metcalfe. We are creating a poster board for “Random Acts of Kindness” and will be encouraging anyone who has an idea or has performed a random act of kindness to post it on the board. Please join us for the Children’s Sangha!
Women Mitra Community Spring Update By Khemavassika
members, as each selected teachers from the Refuge Tree and gave a presentation to the class. Amala will present the next unit of study for the spring. Please remember to register for the Order/Mitra Day, to be held on Saturday, May 2nd, at Aryaloka. This is an opportunity to connect with Order members and mitras from the Portland, Portsmouth and Boston sanghas. If you are interested in learning about what it takes to be a mitra, contact Khemavassika at firstname.lastname@example.org. VAJ R A BE L L 21
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“I like this. It moves me. I want more.” Grasping can snuff out and block the path of beauty. Reflecting on “the beautiful” in our experience can lead to a deeper appreciation of the beauty that surrounds us at all times, at a higher more sublime state of experience. For example, the weather conditions are such that ice is coating all exterior surfaces near your home. This ice becomes a threat to “your” schedule. You have something important to do. You become fearful, annoyed and frustrated with these conditions. You don’t want this. Stopping for a moment to reflect on your response, you run into your dissatisfaction. Why? Because we have a sense of permanence and an expectation around how things “should” be. The non-beautiful ice that causes headache and suffering is also the ice that sparkles when the sun emerges, transforming your world into a jewel-encrusted land of sparkling beauty. The crystallized water, aside from being frozen, is not different from the water that flows in us. Watching this unfolding, from our initial responses through the contemplation of this moment-to-moment event and seeing deeper into conditioned arising, is participating in
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ma and Vajramati reconnected with Dhardo and Sersang, sharing wisdom and kindness. Following breakfast, we accompanied Sersang to the stupa and began, as a team, to remove the snow and ice covering the stupa and the surrounding area. We felt part of something much larger than any one of us – sangha in action. There was harmony in how everyone involved found a task to accomplish. Faith was tested, then restored, when the tape we feared would not retain its adhesive qualities on the cold, wet stupa stones held firmly in place with the long garlands of flower petals taken from pods and brought from India. More than a week later, the tape still held fast. Sangha members arrived from far and wide. Candradasa conducted interviews for the Buddhist Centre Online website (TheBuddhistCentre.com). As last min22 VAJ R A BE LL
beauty. We become more aware of the infinite possibilities by peeking into conditioned arising. The stupa at Aryaloka, dedicated to Dhardo Rinpoche, is beautiful on many levels. Its meaning goes beyond “a nice pile of rocks.” The form is uplifting and pleasing to the eye as it points to the clouds and beyond. Deep gray-shadowed stones flecked with brilliance ascend from the earth, having been dug from the earth, are hauled over the earth to the building site and are mindfully and skillfully positioned. The stupa offers an experience of grounding and spaciousness, a sense of feeling completely full and empty at the same time, providing inspiration on the path to awakening, an awareness opening beyond the rational mind. The incomprehensible quality of beauty also includes pleasure, delight and joy, with a deep sense of positivity and warmth. Standing with the stupa, patient old trees and tangled brush bend with the winds and witness as the birds and small creatures pilgrimage through the area. Ticks, mosquitos and squirrels pay homage. Beyond the form and the site of the stupa is a deeper significance still. The stupa is also the representation of the six elements – earth, water, fire, air, space and consciousness. Contemplating these elements both externally and inter-
nally we come to see that what we identify with as “self ” is impermanent and insubstantial. Seeing more and more deeply into this process is experiencing and participating in beauty. “Cherish the doctrine, live united, radiate love” – these are the words of Dhardo Rimpoche. What do these three statements mean to you? Deepening our awareness of these words and working with them in our everyday ethical engagements of body, speech and mind is another step in the process of becoming. Seeing the unfolding of conditionality, never fixed, always flowing on, is yet another rung on the ladder leading from darkness to light. Seeking beauty in our everyday experience brings deeper appreciation and understanding of the world. Ultimately, what we seek in these questions, reflections and thoughts dissolve into the sky. We reach a place where words and concepts must be let go of into silence. Being aware and responding to the stupa’s form is a step on the search for ever-higher states of being led by the hand and following “her massive sandal set on stone.” Many thanks and appreciation for Sangharakshita’s clarity and all who fumble in the darkness for the light switch of awakening. An especially warm thanks to Satyada, Surakshita and Vidhuma, my three honorable and worthy travel companions.
ute preparations were completed, sangha members circled the stupa. Dhardo Rinpoche and Sersang began with a pre-purification puja designed to remove obstacles. Then the purification puja began. With its symbolic gesturing, Tibetan chanting and use of ritual objects, the ceremony was an experience of connecting to the significance of this particular stupa and its sacred relics of great Tibetan teachers, especially the 13th Dhardo Rinpoche’s ashes. The ritual concluded with Dhardo Rinpoche flinging a khata (ceremonial scarf) skyward toward the stupa. It drifted down and settled on the flower petal garlands just even with the rupa nestled in the stupa’s upper alcove. Sangha members made offerings, bowed and chanted, and then made their way to the shrine room for a concluding puja led by Dhardo Rinpoche. Dhardo Rinpoche continued to give talks throughout his visit, including a question and answer session for mitras and
Order members and a talk about the stupa at Aryaloka’s Tuesday Friends’ Night. He spoke thoughtfully, humbly and with a sense of humor. When he did not know something, he apologized for not being able to give a better answer. In our egodriven culture, it was refreshing to encounter such humility. Dhardo’s kindness and compassion was evident in all his interactions, both oneon-one and with groups. Sersang was always by his side - serene, mindful and kind. I was sad to say goodbye to Dhardo Rinpoche and Sersang. Their presence opened my heart, and I will always treasure the experience of their visit that was of mutual benefit to all. Well, it’s time to circumambulate the stupa where I will chant the words of Dhardo Rinpoche, Sangharakshita’s teacher, “Cherish the doctrine. Live united. Radiate love.”
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poetry corner Three Winter Tales After Kenneth MacLeod By Candradasa I In the year of the dead birds Saint Kenneth fed the sparrows as a last rite under a tree. And in the watching man’s heart something else crystallised where previously waterfalls froze. His eyes misted over – and that was the true miracle: now the mountains could melt. II “It was the poet in Sangharakshita that led him to the religious life, and it was the path of renunciation that enabled him to see the world in a wider and truer perspective, which is the hallmark of genuine poetry.” ~ Lama Anagarika Govinda in the introduction to “The Veil of Stars,” by Sangharakshita (1954) Here are three poems by Sangharakshita, reprinted from Complete Poems 1941-1994 by Sangharakshita, with the kind permission of Windhorse Publications.
After Meditation (1967)
Calcutta, 1954 Grey sleepers, wrapped in noisome rags, Lay stretched out on the paving stones As through the silence of the streets We walked, and talked in quiet tones.
As the last gong-stroke dies away, Shiver on shiver, into the deep silence, Opening my eyes, I find myself In a green-mossed underground cave Overarching still waters whereon White lotuses, half open, are peacefully smiling.
Against black walls belatedly Old beggars crouched with rusty tins; Rummaged the famished dogs and cats Through overflowing garbage bins. Sometimes a taxi, creeping past, Purred to us of debauch’s lair, While blue and red the neon lights Burned through the smoke-filled city air. Our theme was friendship, beauty, art… And as we thrid those streets, despite Their squalor, in the moon, all round We saw the beauty of the night.
SPRI NG 2 0 1 5
I come to you with four gifts. The first gift is a lotus-flower. Do you understand? My second gift is a golden net. Can you recognize it? My third gift is a shepherds’ round-dance. Do your feet know how to dance? My fourth gift is a garden planted in a wilderness. Could you work there? I come to you with four gifts. Dare you accept them?
Saint Bride’s bird saved the Christ from his enemies – covered him in sea yarn. Down they came from the mountain but couldn’t find anyone, saw no trace of god or man. So the bird daubed white by Michael for her sins, went back to catching oysters And saving children’s souls, bringing them in a boat From the brink of the other world. III The black fiddler on the boat on fire, a village watching from the darkened shore ship still hurtling as pyres of foam Leap and lick at the man in flame whose grin is the gleam their watching eyes catch from the cliff like a bad sunrise, The speed of everyone’s madness set in time to the tune in their blood, and the cold wail of some poor soul Long held groaning down in the hold, bound for the black life under that sail to where no songs prevail. VAJ R A BE L L 23
(All events are subject to change. For the latest, up-to-date information, check our web site at http://www.aryaloka.org or call the office at 603-659-5456.) Events in italics held at Akasaloka. Mitra classes & Order days not included.
April 26 28
22-24 24 26
Young Sangha Hangout, 6-8 pm Friends’ Night, 6:45-9:15 pm
May 1 2 2-3 3 5 8 9 10 12 15 16 17 19
Compassionate Presence weekend retreat, led by Shantigarbha Young Sangha Hangout, 6-8 pm Friends’ Night, 6:45-9:15 pm
June Buddha Day celebration, 7-9 pm, led by Amala Order/Mitra Day Women’s GFR Overnight Drawing Group, led by Eric Ebbeson Friends’ Night, 6:45-9:15 pm Practice Night, 7-8 pm Movie Night: Samsara, 7-9 pm Path of Practice Group (this group is currently full) Friends’ Night, 6:45-9:15 pm Practice Night, 7-8 pm Bodhisattvas at Play: Work Day, 9 am-4 pm Bodhisattvas at Play: Work Day, 9 am-2 pm Friends’ Night, 6:45-9:15 pm
5-7 7 9 14 14 16 19-28 30
Dharma Practice in the Order: The Effective Cultivation of Insight, weekend retreat, led by Kamalashila Drawing Group, led by Eric Ebbeson Friends’ Night, 6:45-9:15 pm Path of Practice Group (this group is currently full) Children’s Sangha, 2-4 pm, led by Alisha Roberts Friends’ Night, 6:45-9:15 pm Intensive Noble Silence retreat, led by Bodhana, Karunasara and Lilasiddhi Friends’ Night, 6:45-9:15 pm
ongoing events Sangha Night At Aryaloka Every Tuesday evening, 6:45-9:15 p.m. • Led by Arjava, Akashavanda, Amala, Satyada, Lilasiddhi, and other sangha members. • Open to all • Suggested donation $10 per class • No registration necessary Typically, our Tuesday night activities include: • 6:45 - Gathering, tea and announcements • 7:15 - Meditation and shrine room activity • 8:00 - Study, discussion or a talk on the evening’s topic • 9:15 - End With any of these activities, you are free to participate or to just sit and listen. Nothing is compulsory. If you have any questions, please ask!
Full Moon Puja Friday evenings as scheduled (unless noted). See the Aryaloka website or Vajra Bell events schedule for dates and locations. 7:00 p.m. meditation, followed by puja. The rich devotional practice of meditation and puja is shared on these special Friday nights by those who find devotion an important part of their practice. When we celebrate the Sevenfold Puja, which combines faith and devotion with poetry and sometimes an element of visual beauty, we find that our emotional energies are to some extent refined. When this happens, it becomes possible for the vision and insight of the higher thinking center to act through these refined, sublimated emotional centers directly on the moving center. In this way, the whole of life is completely transformed. Sangharakshita ~ Ritual and Devotion
Policy for Retreat Deposits RETREATS/CLASSES/SOLITARIES Those registering for retreats (including solitaries) and classes of any length will be asked to pay a minimum deposit of onehalf of the total cost to finalize registration. If a registrant cancels two weeks or more before the retreat, s/he will receive a
credit of the full amount toward another event. If the cancellation is received less than two weeks before the event, the registrant forfeits half of the retreat fee, and the remainder may be credited toward another event.
Note: In all situations, special circumstances will be taken into consideration. 24 VAJ R A BE LL
SPR ING 2015
In this issue: Meeting Bhante - Connecting with our teacher and founder Sangharakshita